Iris Divine – Mercurial (Layered Reality Productions)

Friday, 20th May 2022
Rating: 9 / 10

The development of alternative, groove, and progressive metal stylistically has been a staple of Iris Divine since their start. Mercurial as the proper third full-length comes at a critical juncture for the trio – longtime drummer Kris Combs stepping away, as Scott Manley takes over that seat. Considering the multi-level, multi-sensory output for 2017’s The Static and the Noise, it’s refreshing to see these musicians dial things back a bit to place the focus on the natural musical interplay while using soundbites and extra programming/keyboards as enhancement tools through this set of material.

The impassioned vocal delivery for guitarist Navid Rashid bristles with savage passion, the right tenacity and tact pouring through opener “Bitter Bride” and first single “Sapphire” – elements of Dug Pinnick, Bruce Dickinson, and John Bush appearing to this scribe’s headspace. The role of bass is key to developing a thicker, punchier attack whether it be more groove-based or throwing around some sophisticated intricate chops – and Brian Dobbs handles both as a seasoned pro, check out his Geddy Lee-ish/ exotic movements during the catchy instrumental “Death by Consensus”. The biggest difference maker is Scott as far as his meter, feel, and natural responsibilities for tempo control. He can certainly tackle some off-time tricks and accents as “Breaking the Paradigm” illustrates, but there’s this natural love of alternative, groove, and mechanical precision that makes “Thirteen” and “Negative Seed” appealing to those who love the work of Tool, Alice in Chains, and Sevendust beyond their progressive favorites. The focus on delivering the right riff and rhythm section combination for Navid to execute his melodic vocals keeps Iris Divine away from being a mere ‘technically brilliant’ band only for the musician set – logical songwriting skills remain paramount, always thinking of the perfect transition to keep listener interest and retention at the highest, emotionally engaged level possible.

Incorporating a multitude of influences from the 80’s metal scene plus 90’s/2000’s alternative hard rock acts, Mercurial proves that Iris Divine mean business in a progressive manner that still contains the right measure of earworms and hooks to produce seriously memorable songs.

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